Bosnian Federation Officially Reclaims
Suburb After Weekend of Arson, Looting
(Sarajevo, March 19) Muslim-Croat Federation police drove into the former Serb district of Grbavica Tuesday, uniting Sarajevo after nearly four years of war and putting an end to a Serb terror campaign of looting, arson and rape. To the waves of a few early risers, 100 federation police drove over the bridge from downtown Sarajevo shortly after 6 a.m. The handover came just hours after departing Serbs tossed grenades and set more buildings ablaze before fleeing Grbavica, the last of five Serb areas handed over to the federation. NATO-led troops seized 12 arsonists and a Bosnian Serb policeman who tried to rape a woman at gunpoint Monday, but Serb police freed them immediately.
"Federal police will guarantee full security for all people here. We donít expect any problems," Sarajevo police chief Enes Bezdrob said Tuesday as he arrived. The chains around Sarajevo have broken "absolutely and definitely," he declared.
A Few Serbs Still Remain
Most Serbs have left Grbavica, part of an exodus that has turned Sarajevo, once multi-ethnic, into a much more Muslim city. Still, with Sarajevo united, a key provision of the U.S.-brokered peace accord has been achieved. The mixed federation police force75 Muslims, 20 Serbs and 5 Croatsimmediately broke into groups of threes and started patrolling the district. For Abdulah Alajbegovic, a 57-year-old Muslim, and his wife, Mileva, a 64-year-old Serb, the arrival of the police brought overwhelming relief. "For me, the last four years were hell," he said. "Today is my second birthday, like Iíve been born again." During the war, Alajbegovic said Serbs tried to kill him several times and once hung him, but let him down. During the past few days of arson and looting in Grbavica, he and his wife remained barricaded in their apartment. It took 30 minutes for them to remove the barricade Tuesday morning.
During Mondayís melee in Grbavica, international soldiers and police monitors ducked in and out of burning buildings, trying to rescue the besieged residents intent on staying. Serb gangs responsible for the arson had sought to scare the last diehard Serb residents into fleeing. Sarajevoís reunification is an especially bitter blow to the Serbs, who had besieged government-held sectors of the capital throughout the war. In addition to Mondayís anarchy, three rapes and 25 fires were reported on Sunday, according to U.N. spokesman Sylvana Foa in New York.
France Condemns Violent Serb Retreat
France condemned on Monday the forced exodus of people after Bosnian Serb areas were transferred to Muslim-Croat rule in Sarajevo and deplored the slow arrival of international police. "We condemn any violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and we regret the population exodus,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told a news briefing. Rummelhardt said France hoped the force of 1,700 international policemen, which is expected to train the Bosnian police force, would be deployed rapidly. Diplomatic sources said only about 300 policemen, one third of them French, had arrived to date.
Weekend from Hell as Grbavica Serbs Burn and Shatter Hope
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